WORK on York's £19 million community stadium will start by next March, the city's council leader has said - and a new design is set to be revealed this summer.

The project to build a new home for York City FC and York City Knights on the Huntington Stadium site at Monks Cross has been dogged by delays, but two firms are now competing for the contract to design, build and operate the stadium and their final bids are expected to be submitted to City of York Council by the end of May.

The authority said the chosen operator will be announced towards the end of the summer, when stadium designs are also set to be unveiled. The minimum capacity must be 6,000, but The Press understands the final capacity may be nearer 8,000 seats, although this has not been confirmed by any of the parties involved.

The stadium was originally expected to be ready for the 2014/15 season, but this was first pushed back a year and then hit by a fresh setback last summer when protected great crested newts were found at the site of the neighbouring Vangarde Shopping Park, where new John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Next stores have just opened and whose developers have provided £13.75 million towards the sports project. Council leader James Alexander has tweeted that construction work will start by March next year.

This would mean the stadium opening for the 2016/17 season. Coun Sonja Crisp, the council's cabinet member for leisure, culture and tourism, said: "The council is in the final stage of procurement for the design, build and operation of the community stadium, with the two shortlisted bidders.

"This scheme will provide a range of significant benefits for the city, including new high-quality facilities for football, rugby and athletics, a range of much-needed community facilities and new jobs in the building and running of the complex. We’re at an exciting part of the procurement process, and I look forward to the final proposals from our bidders so we can appoint the preferred bidder by the end of summer.”

Sophie Hicks, City's communications and community director, said: “We are delighted everything is progressing well with the community stadium project.

"There continues to be much hard work behind the scenes and the next stage will be the announcement of the preferred bidder. It will be at this point when architectural plans for the stadium can be shown to supporters and the general public.

"The opening of the John Lewis store somehow makes the project feel more real, and we can’t wait to play our first game in the new stadium in July 2016.”